DKE Flag



















 THE History of 

Delta Kappa Epsilon







by Duncan Andrews, Rho ’57

“..the Union of stout hearts and kindred interests to secure to merit its due reward,”  Saturday, June 22, 1844: 15 Yale sophomores, rejecting the status quo meet and form a new junior society they call Delta Kappa Epsilon. More fraternal than its rival societies, DKE recruits men who combine “in equal proportions the gentleman, the scholar, and the jolly good fellow”

“...the red hot spot to cast your lot is with old DKE, and although such was not the original objective, and the very moderate fee of $1.50 soon escalates, the Fraternity begins to take roof along the Eastern Seaboard and, thanks to the penchant of Southern planters to send their sons to Yale, throughout the South. Before the decade is out, 18 charters will have been granted by Mother Phi.

These are great days of fraternity expansion, for DKE and others, despite public antipathy toward secret organizations and the often active opposition of college faculties. In 1852, DKE moves west across the Alleghenies, to Ohio, and the campuses of Miami and Kenyon. Two years later, Lambda will build the first fraternity lodge in America. There are setbacks, to be sure: Zeta, Princeton, falters, then dies in 1857; Psi, Alabama, a leader in building the Southern network, succumbs in ’56, not to arise until 1884. But by and large things look good; colonization, not capitulation, is the order of the day.

Slap. bang! here we are again. here we are again, here we are again...”  There are conventions, now, oh boy are there conventions: 1846, 1852, 1853, 1855. 1856... the first alumni directory appears in 1851, the first songbook, 1857. The obligations of the chapters are defined, the financial organization of the Fraternity is established. Even the proposal of a magazine is raised, although it will not be implemented until 1883. DKE is growing from adolescence under Mother Phi to independent manhood -- a manhood that will soon be tested in the cauldron of civil war.

“In fair and stormy weather/Brothers ever friends at heart/Though bound by bonds of love must/From thine alter sadly part...”  It is 1861. The Chapter Roll stands at 33, and Phi is putting the finishing touches on the first “tomb” to be erected by any college fraternity. The previous December, the DKE Convention in New York unanimously voted to hold the 1862 Convention “with some Southern chapter of the Fraternity,” but such is not to be. War erupts, and the first Union officer killed (and, so far as records show, the first soldier on either side to give his life) is Theodore Winthrop of Phi. Four years of agony later, it will be a Princeton Deke, Philip Spence, who is the last Confederate commander to surrender, six weeks after Appomattox.

Except for Eta, Virginia, DKE’s Southern chapters close: many forever, their colleges destroyed. Of some 2,500 living Dekes, 1,542 will fight for their side—162 more than the next two fraternities combined. No chapter, North or South, is left unscarred; yet, amid the devastation of the battlefield, the Brotherhood lives on.

Except for the chartering of Theta Zeta, California, in 1876—evidence of the Fraternity’s desire to become truly national—Reconstruction brings a pause to the growth of DKE. Struggling to rebuild its surviving chapters, the Fraternity withdraws from the expansion of the antebellum years, and focuses on its internal operations and the construction of a centralized governing body. By 1881, when Brother Rutherford B. Hayes enters the White House, the first fraternity man to become President, the machinery is in place, and DKE has further gained by the establishment of numerous alumni groups across the country. The Rampant Lion is beginning to roar.

In 1883, the first issue of The Deke Quarterly appears; in 1885 the DKE Club of New York is born. In 1884 the DKE Council is incorporated under the laws of the State of New York; centralized government is working, although DKE is not yet moving to expand. Between 1876 and 1890 only two chapters are added and in the latter year, while Sigma Tau, MIT, is installed, the Alpha, Harvard, chapter is dropped from the roll despite such alumni as Henry Cabot Lodge, J. P. Morgan and William Randolph Hearst. In 1898, however, things pick up: DKE becomes international with the chartering of Alpha Phi, Toronto, and by the turn of the century the chapter roll is up to 40.

“Shame on Spain, you went and sunk the Maine/There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight” The Spanish-American War— “Mr. Hearst’s War” as it is sometimes called—brings Dekes again to the colors. The first American officer to lose his life during the war is a Rutgers Deke, Surgeon John B. Gibbs, and a Troy State Deke, J. Frank Aldrich, newly appointed U.S. Consul General at Havana, never makes it to his post when the battleship Maine goes under. As the short war draws to an end, the assistant secretary of the Navy, now on active duty with a volunteer cavalry group, charges up Cuba’s San Juan Hill and shortly thereafter into the Governorship of New York, and the Vice Presidency. In 1901 McKinley’s assassination puts DKE’s second President, Theodore Roosevelt, Alpha, in the White House.

"Some kind of men make none at all/That’s not the kind for me/Takes a slick man, a damn fine man/To make jolly old DKE.” It is about this time that a damn fine man who had made DKE at Bowdoin in 1877 achieves a cherished goal: on April 6, 1909, in cold so intense that a flask of brandy carried under his parka freezes solid, Admiral Robert E. Peary discovers the North Pole. Afterward, in New York, over 600 Dekes hail him at a tumultuous banquet (decorations by the American Museum of Natural History) at which he displays the DKE flag he took with him to the top of the world. Sixty years later, a DKE flag goes even further: Astronaut Alan Bean, Omega Chi, Texas ’55 carries it with him to the surface of the moon!

The Convention of 1910 establishes the first DKE General Secretary, and "Jimmy" Hawes, Phi ’94 is elected; the following year he begins the custom of chapter visitations.  A new DKE songbook and directory appear, as does a revised Ritual, and a Constitution embodying the concept that membership in, and an obligation to, the Fraternity does not end at graduation but continues through life!

The onset of World War I brings the involvement of the Canadian chapters Alpha Phi, Toronto, and Tau Alpha, McGill, as well as the participation of US Dekes, who drive ambulances on the Western Front or join the armies of France and England. When the United States enters the war, it is a Dartmouth Deke, Paul G. Osborn ’17, who is the first American to lose his life at the front.

“...The Dekes have gone to the colors,

and our prayers go with them all!

Thank God for our band of brothers who have answered Duty’s call!

For our pin has a prouder meaning to you,

my brothers, and me,

Since the stars it bears are shining

in the trenches across the sea...”

General Peyton Conway March, Rho, Lafayette ’84 is appointed US Army Chief of Staff; his son, Peyton, Jr., Rho ’19, will be one of the 155 Dekes who do not return from Over There.

There is a name, a magic name/That makes our young hearts g1ow...” The twenties are roaring, the Lion is Waring; 1920 sees the first fraternity convention held off the American continent when DKE meets in Havana, courtesy of Cuban president Mario Garcia Menocal, a Cornell Deke; and 1923 brings the first Canadian Convention, in Montreal.

 The first DKE membership scrolls are authorized; the Initiation fee is set at $10.00; Prohibition appears and, as usual, is ignored; and although the fraternity movement flourishes across the land, DKE clings to an expansion policy of “extreme conservatism.” (This is hardly an overstatement, as only one chapter—Manitoba, in 1925—is chartered between 1912 and 1932.) Nevertheless, the Fraternity is producing prominent men: ambassadors, Cabinet members, Congressmen, governors, industrialists, bankers, university presidents, publishers, a startling number of bishops, and a host of other luminaries, including a promising young composer from Phi named Cole Porter, who somehow never manages to write a sweetheart song for DKE.

On go the years: Wall Street stubs its toe, and the DKE Convention of 1931, planned for London, goes instead to Atlantic City, NJ. Emerging briefly from its conservative shell, the Fraternity charters both Alberta and U.C.L.A. in 1932, then withdraws from the field.  The next chapter will be Northwestern in 1948. ‘Dutch’ Elder replaces Jimmy Hawes, and subsequently takes on as his assistant a young music major from LSU named William Mercer Henderson.

The first DKE Pledge Manual appears in 1939; the last Convention until 1947 is held in New Orleans in 1941.

"Sing softly of the loved ones gone before…”  More than 6,000 Dekes march off to World War II; more than 300 of them will not return. The Fraternity waits out the duration, barely a third of its chapters open at any one time. Peace returns and DKE rebuilds. Gone is the reluctant expansion of the past: new chapters emerge, new growth, new ideas. The Lion Trophy and DKE Achievement Awards are first presented in 1955. Ahead lies the campus unrest of the 1960s, another war, and continued expansion. The Rampant Lion Foundation was born in 1982, giving new hope and new opportunity for the betterment of our Fraternity. President Ford, President Bush and Vice President Quayle lead our country through great tribulation and to new glories.

As we celebrated the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of DKE in 1994, we reflected with pride on our past and those who have gone before and charge all brothers to keep DKE strong for those who follow. The Objects of Delta Kappa Epsilon are as relevant today as they were more than 150 years ago.

We are proud of our fraternity and the more than 70,000 men who have become our brothers since DKE was founded in 1844. Dekes come from every walk of life. Many have gone on to distinguish themselves in politics, the arts, sciences, sports, education, and the humanities. Five U.S. Presidents have been Dekes, the most of any fraternity. The first man to reach the North Pole was a Deke and a Deke has carried our flag to the moon. In every corner of the world you will meet fellow Dekes, but whatever their background or station in life, all are united by the shared experience of membership in DKE.



Delta Pi of ΔKE ~ Illinois    ~    Delta Psi of ΔKE ~ Indiana   ~    Psi Phi of ΔKE ~ DePauw


Post Office Box 813     Greencastle,  Indiana  46135